Why Do Athletes Use Ice For Recovery?
In 2013, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid star revealed he has had his own ‘ice-box’ Cryotherapy chamber fitted in his home. He takes two three-minute sessions a week and credits this to taking his already incredible strength and fitness to another level.
So why do athletes use cryotherapy for recovery?
Cold Therapy Combats Micro Trauma
The general theory behind this cold therapy is that the exposure to cold helps to combat the microtrauma (small tears) in muscle fibres and resultant soreness caused by intense or repetitive exercise. Research shows that cold water immersion attenuated long-term gains in muscle mass and strength.
For example, intense games such as rugby players will have an ‘ice bath’. After a workout, training session or tough match where the body needs to “repair” itself. With the high workload in professional rugby, recovery becomes very important ice baths alongside a number of other recovery methods to prepare for the next session.
The Value of Ice Baths
It is believed ice baths or the cold helps bring fresh blood and oxygen to the muscle tissue while removing waste products of exercise. Removing inflammation and lactic acid being the two keys for rugby players.
Generally, any athlete after performing or playing a match may have occurred an injury and for them to increase their chances of recovery and speed up the healing process.
For example a hamstring injury will be iced immediately either after the race for a runner or match for a rugby player to firstly relieve pain and to reduce inflammation, then during the rehabilitation of the injury the athlete will continue to use ice as a treatment method for the injury to increase the speed the muscle tear heals.
Generally as the human athlete gets older the wear and tear on the body from the sport will take effect and athletes will often use icing as part of their routine training daily to increase the longevity if their muscles so they can perform to the best of their ability, mostly in areas like the lower back and leg muscles.
Or for sports that use the upper body such as cricket, they will ice shoulders and arm muscles.